The debut issue of Frank Cho’s Boom! Studios comic Skybourne is notable for the ways in which it creates memorable moments and how it avoid many opening pitfalls. It makes a lot of sense that good #1’s are so difficult. There is no prior understanding to the world or aesthetic of the Skybourne universe. That all has to be established in the opening pages. Readers don’t know anything about the protagonists, so #1 has to introduce us to our primary cast of characters. And if all of those are done well, why should we keep reading? An arc for the next several issues has to be carefully woven throughout the opening.
This is a lot to do, and even the most experienced comic book writers at the Big Two publishers struggle with it. Thankfully, Skybourne #1 manages to accomplish everything that is required to make a great first issue.
Where the comic truly excels is in the way that it creates memorable moments. Skybourne #1 is a collection of exciting and cinematic comic book moments. The cold open alone is one of the most interesting sequences of the year. A well-dressed man is clutching a picture of a woman as he calmly plummets to the Earth from several miles above. He lands on his back and creates a small crater. He opens his eyes and is mildly frustrated. It’s the kind of strange thing with enough anchors to normalcy that the slight deviation from expectation makes it particularly memorable.
This scene comes off the heels of the title page, which tells us about this man, Thomas Skybourne, and his brother Abraham and sister Grace, explaining that they have been blessed with superhuman strength, impenetrable skin, and immortality.
The second one is going to become very important, as well as very wrong.
The rest of the comic follows Grace Skybourne as she bargains for, then takes a sword from a crime boss. While driving away with the sword, she encounters an old man dressed in robes. He then overturns her vehicle and the two begin to fight. The fight lasts several pages, and is well-paced and full of unpredictable turns and solid moments. The conclusion sees the old man take the sword that Grace acquired and run it through her stomach. The title page established the rules of these three characters. The opening scene with Thomas demonstrated the validity of those rules. The final scene subverts those rules immediately. It’s all really masterfully constructed and is some of Frank Cho’s best work.
While the wealth of memorable moments is Skybourne #1’s greatest strength, it is also in many ways its biggest weakness. The moments are stellar, but the tissue connecting them isn’t as strong as it could be. The middle act with Grace and the crime boss are predictable and straightforward. It’s a lull between two dizzying highs. We don’t get much time with any of the Skybourne’s to understand who they are and their motivations. Overall, this is a very solid debut issue and has my attention for the remainder of the series. I’d like to see more of these moments, but I’d also like to learn who these characters are in a greater sense.
Rating - 4/5